Til bevillingsoversigt

The British Imperial System and the End of German Colonialism, 1880-1926

Carlsberg Foundation Visiting Fellowships at University of Oxford


The project concerns the confiscation of Germany's colonies after the First World War and its long-term ramifications. Although this is often considered a nominal historical event, it had far-reaching consequences: For the British Empire, former German colonies now possessed by Australia and South Africa revealed an ongoing decentralization that would ultimately result in the creation of the Commonwealth. In international politics, by justifying the takeover on humanitarian grounds (and on German mistreatment of Africans), it set a precedent that made colonial rule far more burdensome than before and, in turn, inscribed certain elements of imperialism into history's first attempt at a global governance.


The outbreak and consequences of the First World War remains some of the most fundamental issues in history. The war fundamentally changed the world and initiated the gradual decline of European colonialism. The project will provide fresh interpretations on the outbreak of the war, by placing especially Anglo-German relations in a new historical context. It also sheds light on the implicit consequences of an otherwise neglected issue and thereby gives us a better understanding of global governance in its formative stage. Fundamentally, the project bridges several historical approached and will map the intrinsic relations between foreign policy interests and humanitarian concerns: an aspect that is still incredibly important for how states and international organizations act today


The project has already been supported by the Carlsberg Foundation before, which has enabled me to collect all the empirical evidence needed. All the remains is the daunting task of writing. The project is hosted at the University of Oxford and at the Oxford Centre for Global History, arguably the most prestigious of its kind. Being at the University of Oxford is ideal for this project: it's state-of-the-art facilities such as the Bodleian Library and its scholarly environment will be particularly beneficial. Supported by expert scholars like Professor of Imperial History, Andrew Thompson, the project have a formidable academic backing. During the project, hypotheses and findings will be tested at conferences and a formal book proposal will be prepared for a world-leading publisher.


Colonialism and its legacies have been increasingly popular in public debates and have become subject to radical views on both the far right and the far left. But the colonial world and the imperial world order was far more complex and nuanced that the views espoused in such debates. It therefore remains crucial for historians to insist on the historical nuances that defined our past. This project will, in part, reveal that while humanitarian interventionism did have a more pragmatic reasoning, it also emanated from an actual concern and desire to change the world for the better. Another important aspect, is that the project will show how states react when atrocities or scandals occur. The British in 1904-8 censored and overlooked the German genocide of the Herero and Nama in present-day Namibia in order to prevent Germany being provoked. Similar patterns are evident when major powers like China in today's world are virtually exempt from international scrutiny. The project can help us understand why certain atrocities, scandals or events are reacted upon and why others are not.